Brandon’s Best Of 2017: Two Formats, Two Top 10 Lists!

Another year of home video releases in the books. While digital and streaming continue to be a thing, the physical market is still the best possible way to view or take in your entertainment. And whatever the numbers tell you what, whether its “dying” or “doing well”, what’s clear is that the overall quality of the releases are thriving. With the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format in its second year and boutique labels (Criterion, Arrow, etc.) being allotted more and more sublicensing on more A-level titles, there were a lot of reissues in 2017. I argue its been many years since some of these were first released to begin with, but these new editions have really been upping their game in the high quality transfers and restorations business. With the 4K material, some studios are finally opening up to catalog titles further back than the last couple years, with some studios really blowing us away with their enhancements and others lazily just upconverting it seems. All in all, it was another terrific year for collectors and fans, and I for one will be leaving 2017 more than pleased.

Order Any Of These Titles By Clicking Picture, Titles Or The Amazon Link At The End.

I’ve typically done 20 or more releases every year for my Top “10”. Since I am capable of two formats and do reviews for both, I’ve decided to split my ‘Best Of” into two separate lists this year. In terms of overall home video merits, the 4K Ultra-HD format, majority of the time, does not offer new supplemental material with just the new video and audio to boast. I argue that is ENOUGH for it to do, as long as the prior Blu-ray disc containing the extras is included. During the DVD and Blu-ray eras, especially with classics, we’ve covered pretty much all grounds that need covered with interviews, documentaries, deleted scenes and the like. So, I can’t dock them if material was already perfect or satisfactory to begin with. I also can’t put one ahead of a standard Blu-ray release that worked its tail off in a restoration and compiling and impressive bunch of new extras. And thus, my reasoning for the split. Most of my overall favorite releases, including my favorite release of the year, were on the standard Blu-ray format. So, we will start with the 4K batch first. And with both lists, as my year is busy as always, I wasn’t able to get to every thing I would have liked to, so these only consist of titles I actually watched, though some you may feel are missing…I just have not got to them yet.

Disclaimer: One unfortunate snag for this Top 10 list is that I was unable to include the 7-film Christopher Nolan box set from Warner Bros. I am still waiting for it to arrive. If the rest of the films turned out anything like what I saw with Dunkirk or Brian with Interstellar, then I imagine it would have made the Top 2 for sure.

10. Starship Troopers (Sony) – You’re going to see a lot of Sony here. They’ve proven to be the most impressive and consistent studio when it comes to their catalog titles on 4K. Starship Troopers looks incredibly with its new look and sounds even more handsome with its complimentary Atmos track. The Blu-ray disc that already had a wealthy amount of bonus features is included. Starship Troopers, the film itself, still holds up strong today and its image and audio will for the foreseeable future too.

9. Leon (Sony) – Referred to as “The Professional” on its US release back in the 90s, Sony has kept to it being such in its 4K transfer. This was a sort of word of mouth kinda cult film back when I was younger and still sorta remains that way. However, Sony has always treated this as a top title and usually sees release when a new format comes around. With this one and the Fifth Element leaping to 4K this year, I’m itching for them to revisit and do a new transfer on La Femme Nikita.


8. Transformers (Paramount) – My enjoyment for this movie has been a bit restored, thanks very much to this 4K Ultra-HD upgrade Paramount issued this year. Its new Atmos track really rocks the house and the video transfer makes the visual effects in this movie even more detail, more impressive and they wow’ingly hold up. All of the exhausting and lengthy extras remain intact, via the 2-Disc Blu-ray release that accompanies it. I must mention that I have chosen this Transformers film to represent the whole. While The Last Knight has one of the best 4K images I’ve ever seen, the extras on that were quite lacking in comparison to the other 4 films in this series. Plus, woof, in order to see the image on The Last Knight, you’d have to sit through the movie. Its a little against the code for this list (I always put quality of movie last on list of importance in compiling the titles), but its for the better.

7. Men In Black: 20th Anniversary (Sony) – Yeah, I’m surprised, too. I just reviewed this set last week and I never in a million years thought I’d be as enthused and impressed as I was with Sony’s Men In Black set. It features some really nice, feasible packaging to go along with some outstanding transfers of the films and rocking Atmos audio to boot. You also get all the previous extras. Nope, I’m not flashing myself after, I’ll remember this set quite well.


6. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (Sony) – This and another one down the list had me excited that maybe Jaws was coming to 4K, too…but nay.  This one already had a nice set previously, but this one goes and outdoes it. There were two options and the deluxe one with the big packaging lighting up and playing the song is nice, but not a necessity. The transfer looks great and makes really cool uses of HDR in a natural way for an older film. I also love that they added a feature that will mark the differences between cuts as you watch the film.

5. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Sony) – Yawn, another Sony, I know. Here’s one that was already prepped with a 4K restoration a year ago, easily porting over to the new format (Taxi Driver, PLEASE). This movie has never looked more lovely than it does here. Its very crisp and colorful. I actually watched it about 3 times when it came out, as I was really caught up in this image and mesmerized by it (Plus, one of the times was to do a commentary for it). Francis Ford Coppola’s last good film becomes his first on the 4K format.

4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Universal) – Well, damn. The iconic Spielberg film takes on a whole new, enriched and beautiful light in the 4K Ultra-HD world. Expertly and naturally placed HDR moments really shine here as well as the perfectly remastered and detailed image. The audio is also quite a treat. There was no doubt this movie was going to come over to the format looking and sounding excellent, but its also something to actually experience it as well. All the old extras and some new ones come along for this ride.


3. Logan (Fox) – One of my favorite films of the year also came over in the most handsome 4K transfer at the time. It still holds as one of the best on the format, hands down. The picture and audio is pretty perfect. This release is a culmination of a great film, great picture, great sound and great extras. I’d really love them to go back and give this sort of love to the previous film, The Wolverine (Uncut version, please), as that one is worthy of the format jump and I think could easily shine.


2. Dunkirk (Warner Bros) – Here is your elite and top example of how great a 4K Ultra-HD image can be. I just reviewed it last week, so you can go back to that to wipe up my drool. But, Dunkirk is the top modern-movie image on the format to date. As I mentioned there, it is almost like a painting. Sure, its only accompanied by a 5.1 track, but you’ll forget that real quick with how damn good of a 5.1 track it is. Accompanying it is a bonus disc with a very lengthy documentary taking you through the production of this unique war epic. This is the real deal. A complete, wow’ing and satisfactory release. And yet, its not my #1.

1. Blade Runner (Warner Bros) – One of my favorite films of all time. But still, this 4K Ultra-HD release had it looking and sounding like you couldn’t image. It was almost like I was experiencing the film for the first time through a brand new pair of eyes. And the Atmos track was so fresh and incredible to listen roll from speaker to speaker and just hear all the intricacies of the design. The world I had marveled and enjoyed taking wonder in had unlocked a new secret or shown me a new way.  I watched this 4K Ultra-HD release times within 2 weeks after I received it. No new extras are provided, but it retains every disc from the previous collection except the workprint. Just watching the film alone in its new form was enough to put everything down and make me realize that this was amazing and the 4K Ultra-HD, when effort is actually put in, is completely worth the jump.

Like the previous list, this one has one potentially glaring omission and that is Arrow’s release of The Apartment. Unfortunately, it was delayed and won’t be releasing until after this list was created.  I also feel guilty as I still haven’t cracked open Arrow’s George Romero set yet. Its funny, there are a few distributors that I could make the list of JUST their titles. Criterion, Arrow, Shout Factory all put out some outstanding stuff year round. Whether it be new Blu-ray debuts or an upgraded version of a previous release, the sublicensing market for Blu-ray is both going strong and impressing each and every month of the year. Also, while they aren’t on the list, Warner Archive had a HELL of a year (Mask of the Phantasm, The Hidden and that 3-hour cut of Superman to name a few!), and seem to be continuing on bringing out some of their most requested titles into 2018. Keep it coming! This was the harder list to narrow down and contains the most memorable and favorite titles of mine (And it was also hard to cut superb releases of Stanley Kubrick, John Carpenter & Sam Peckinpah films from this list). So, when you get to the #1 here, its my true #1 overall.

The Lodger: A Story of London Fog (Criterion Collection)

A nice surprise was an outstanding restoration and release of Hitchcock’s silent film that really plants the seeds of the filmmaker he would become. Sound and sight are terrific, but Criterion spoils as well by not only supplying a wealth of bonus material, but a whole other Hitchcock film, Downhill as well. Criterion also did a great job with an upgraded release of Rebecca, too. I wish Criterion could release 1 Hitchcock title a month. I’d buy a subscription for that!

Ghost World (Criterion Collection)

One of my favorite coming of age films FINALLY jumped to Blu-ray. I thought it had been forgotten, it even was one of my very original Wish List titles. The film also drew me to Scarlett Johansson and I felt like she had potential to become a big star if her cards fell right. I was happy to revisit the film and see that it held up swimmingly . Its very much the Lady Bird of its day. This Blu-ray also snagged back the film’s leads for a discussion, which was impressive and gives me more respect for Johansson who I could understandably see passing on something like this.

Popcorn (Synapse Films)

One of my favorite early 90s horror films with one of my favorite genre heroines, Jill Schoelen.  Like another on this list, this was a film that Synapse Films had us patiently waiting for and it was worth the wait as it got a pretty sweet steelbooks, a great transfer and an awesome retrospective documentary on the making of the film. This is also a very underseen film, that is pretty fun and a loving horror homage that may have been missed during an era where horror was on the decline.

Streets of Fire: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory/Shout Select)

I can dream about how awesome of a release Streets of Fire could get, but I’d imagine it would be pretty much similar to Shout! Factory’s very own. This new release not only featured hours of new material in interviews and such (Sporting a whole second disc), but the film also looked and sounded great. This one also had an awesome new bit of artwork created for this release as well. One of my favorite Walter Hill films, this one has found itself in a rotation on my Blu-ray player this year.

Silent Night, Deadly Night: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory/Scream Factory)

I was pretty blown away when I saw the transfer on this movie. This might be the best transfers that Scream Factory has ever put forth (Its at least one of their all time tops). To boot, its got brand new interviews and such that is the best home video edition of this movie fans could have hoped for. My review also gave me quite a few chuckles when perusing message boards to see if anyone had seen the lovely transfer of the film and enjoyed it as much as I did. Instead I got to see 3 days worth of debate about what a shitty, illegitimate reviewer I am and saw a good history on myself that I had no idea had taken place. Pretty neat. But, kudos on this one to everyone involved, its an outstanding product. Can we get a set with the sequels next (Just having them will be fine, bonus only if you want to).

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Arrow Video)

This is Arrow’s second release of Dario Argento’s directorial debut. There was much controversy years ago with their original release, but lets just say they’ve done VERY right with this one.  Bird now looks really lovely in its pristine new transfer. Arrow’s release also contains a nice hard case, a book and a poster to go along with many of the new extras provided on the film. They seem to be going back through their Argento catalogue with super editions as Phenomena came out this past year and The Cat O’ Nine Tails will be out next month. Here’s hoping one of my favorites, Inferno, sees the treatment next.

Suspiria (Synapse Films)

We are going to keep on rolling with Argento and now tackle his signature film which just started arriving for folks this week. Mine came on Monday and I tore through it. It includes a booklet with some essays, the Goblin soundtrack and some nice bonus materials. If anywhere this is lacking its that, in terms of new interviews, (aside from one actor) there are none with any of the cast and crew. However, this one gets so high here and I really really was pulling for this to be tops of the year or even higher because this damn restoration is so incredibly mesmerizing. I don’t know how much even a 4K UHD upgrade could do. The clarity, detail and colors in this are so striking. The audio has also been remastered off of the original 4.0 soundtrack. Its quite the spectacle. People can bitch about the plot or ADR dialogue…but when it comes to Suspiria (Or Italian horror in a lot of cases), those are irrelevant. These are a visual spectacle. I happen to like Supsiria’s plot plenty, but its set design, cinematography, sounds and gore make the film a masterpiece alone. And they are finally displayed properly and at their best right here in Synapse’s Blu-ray.

Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series (Paramount)

David Lynch sure doesn’t mess around with his extras. This return to the cult classic television series (And prequel film) was a revelation and breakthrough in an era where TV is already at some very high standards. Twin Peaks’ Blu-ray set is no different. It offers countless (and I mean countless) hours of bonus material really giving you a feel for working on the show as well as a little in to the mind of its maker. The episodes also look top notch and a big step up from the broadcast and streaming counter parts. Packaging is also quite fun and impressive. They know what Twin Peaks fans want and they have given them exactly that and then some.

The Before Trilogy (Criterion Collection)

Teased for many a moon before coming to fruition, this set finally was delivered by Criterion. Well, maybe we didn’t know if it was going to be a set or not, but we knew they had them. And what a lovely release it is. This is probably one of the best things they’ve ever put out, featuring new conversations with Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy that carry over all three films in the series’ discs. Packaging is also pretty awesome on here as well and the films look stunning. Plus this is one of the best trilogies we’ve ever had, and who knows, maybe this story may even not be complete yet.

Phantasm Collection (Arrow Video-UK & Well Go USA-US)

Either way you went on how you purchased your complete Phantasm series, it was a win. Both had interviews and extras that either were the same or covered the same territory. I have long pined on this site and been eager for these films to come to Blu-ray. In the days of DVD, we could never get Phantasm II on DVD. And the opposite happened with Blu-ray, where all we had was Phantasm II and could never get the others to make the jump. Leave it to the film being restored during the post production of The Force Awakens for things to spark this into happening. Personally, my favorite of these two sets is the Arrow Video release as I have a thing for big, bulky, ridiculous displayable packaging. Plus, it also came with a cool replica of one of the balls from the film. But, I get it if you like Well Go USA’s with the nice lineup for a library shelf where you can show off the spines in sequential order. All the films had the same transfer on these sets, and they look pretty awesome. Once again, as I said before, I’m not going to select one over the other for this slot, EVERYBODY WINS!


5 Responses to “Brandon’s Best Of 2017: Two Formats, Two Top 10 Lists!”

  1. Brian White

    Alright alright alright. I am allowed to say that because I live in Austin, TX
    There’s A LOT of GOOD stuff in here!
    And with the exception of MIB I can honestly say I own and concur with all your Top 10 cuts on 4K!!! Well…I still need to see Dunkirk one day, but rest assured I will rectify that and Aaron will have 1/10 hope restored in me again.
    Your list also cost me some money today and reminded me of a Criterion title I forgot to pick up per an old text message exchange with you many months ago. GHOST WORLD. Can’t ever have enough ScarJo IMO.
    I want to get that import 4K of Suspiria

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention Streets of Fire! I do love that Silent Night, Deadly Night transfer. Great list(s) overall and I look forward to grabbing some of these 4K releases some day when I make that upgrade.

    @Brian – 1/100, you had your chance to see a brilliant film from one of your favorite directors and blew it.

  3. Gerard Iirbe

    Hmmmm, I thought we were going to cross streams with the BD titles but did not. I don’t have a few of the ones listed in your top-10. I will say that Arrow, Scream/Shout Factory, and Criterion had stellar years with plenty of titles.

  4. Gregg

    Glad to see E.T. arrived on the 4K format this year and glad to see Logan so high on your list! I have to say, my interest is really piqued with this ‘Popcorn’ movie. How did you find out about it?

  5. Brandon Peters

    Hi Gregg, I rented Popcorn on VHS a few times when I was younger. After VHS it sorta became a rarity or hard to find item due to loose/unclear home video distribution rights.